Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Garden open on Sunday

View across the gravel beds.


On Sunday 19 June my garden at Kirkhill Farm, Settrington, will be open from 2-6 pm, as part of the Yorkshire Arboretum's open garden's scheme. Sixteen gardens are taking part, and there are several more to come over the next few months - see the programme on our website for full details of them all. So far I've been to them all - and now it's my turn! Despite the misgivings expressed in The Garden about the June gap the garden is looking well enough, I think, although a rabbit did get in for a while, and there is currently a mole...

I'm glad that my Iris sibirica "Tall Blue" seedling is in flower for the occasion.
Seed of my white poppies and quite an assortment of good plants will be for sale.

The garden will also be open on 7 August and 18 September.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A weekend of orchid-hunting

I have wanted to see a wild Lady's-slipper Orchid in this country for over 40 years - but how wild are these?
After a week of cold greyness a fine weekend was to be made the most of, and I've spent much of it looking for orchids. Yesterday I visited a site on magnesian limestone just north of Pickering, and today I've been across to Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve near Silverdale in Lancashire, returning via Kilnsey Park in Wharfedale. Here are some of the orchids seen: 13 species, including those not in flower yet, plus three hybrids.

Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) have done well this year, and the Pickering site had some of the longest 'long purples' I've ever seen. It was also abundant at Kilnsey Park.

This site is known for its tiny population of Neotinea ustulata, the Burnt-tip Orchid, which is tiny in stature too. I had not seen this species before, so it was a good start to the weekend. 

Just three plants were visible, in the shortest turf on a site that is being undergrazed and in quite a parlous condition. The colour of the sepals was noticeably different in these two.

Also growing in short turf in the open were a good number of Fly Orchids, Ophrys insectifera, always a nice plant to see. In addition Common Twayblade, Neottia ovata, Common Spotted Orchid and a butterfly orchid (Platanthera sp., indistinguishable in bud) were still in bud.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing the reintroduced Lady's-slippers, Cypripedium calceolus, at Gait Barrows. A visiting area has a number of clumps ranging from this stunner to eaten-off stumps, in areas demarcated by tape to reduce damage. They are the progeny of native parents, grown at Kew under the auspices of the Sainsbury Orchid Project, as part of the effort to re-establish this almost mythical plant back into the wild in suitable (often former) localities.

Every bit as gorgeous as expected!

Sadly thefts still occur, although nursery-grown stock is now freely available. The Gait Barrows site is amply publicised and signed, within an easy walk of the car park, so very accessible. The plants are still being gardened though, with each shoot trained through a presumably slug-repelling copper tube. Slug pellets are also visible near each plant. Success of the project will presumably be when self-sown youngsters are discovered away from the parents.

The limestone pavement of Gait Barrows is a well-0known site for Dark-red Helleborine, Epipactis atrorubens  It  was too early for it to be in flower, but good to see this clump. Broad-leaved Helleborine, E. helleborine, was also present in the woodland. Marsh Helleborine, E. palustris, was growing in the flush at Kilnsey, but is also weeks off flowering.

In the hay meadows Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, was just starting. Yhis is a small one, but very typical.

Northern Marsh Orchids, Dactylorhiza purpurella, with broad lips and unmarked leaves, were also present.

In consequence there are hybrids... D. × venusta, intermediate in flower colour and faintly spotted on the leaves.

Moving on to Kilnsey Park, behind the trout farm is a wonderful flush, full of good plants including Primula farinosa and Pinguicula vulgaris, but also lots of orchids including the Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides. This is typically rich purple (this one is exceptionally dark) with three rounded lobes on the lip and spotting on the leaves - but dactylorhizas often don't follow the books. Another new species for me.

Another specimen, showing the long spotted leaves expected in this taxon.

Many diminutive specimens of Early Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. incarnata, were present too. The looped markings on the simple lip and unmarked leaves, as well as the flower colour, make it easily recognisable.

A putative D. incarnata x D. traunsteinerioides

A perfect intermediate between D. fuchsii and D. incarnata,
D. × kerneriorum.

And to finish the weekend, Southern Marsh Orchid, D. praetermissa, most handsome of them all, at home in the Yorkshire Arboretum.